One thing we know about cruisers: they all have their own stories. We have met single handers, couples, families, those with pets, those that don’t particularly like pets, those who are taking a break from their careers to cruise while they are young, those that are retired. Some seem to be independently wealthy, some have saved and planned to make their trip enjoyable, and some live on tight budgets. We have met people who have been living on their boats for ten years and some who just cruise part time. Some cruisers have families at home, wherever home may be, and some do not. Everyone decides what is best for them and everyone else completely accepts their choices without question. For us, when Christmas time came around, we knew we needed to be home with our family. We needed hugs from a two, a three, a five, a six, and a nine year old. For John, it had been over a year since he last saw Walt and Rush and almost a year since he last saw Michaela, Carter, and Madison. Top that off with some pretty wonderful children and their spouses or girlfriend and it was time to go home!
December 20th was my birthday and I was getting the best gift ever. We left Jolly Harbour Marina, here in Antigua, around noon. We felt very comfortable leaving AfterMath as she is docked right next to our friends on Tropical Blend and on Symbiosis, both crews promising to keep an eye on her while we were gone. Our taxi took us to the kennel where Kirby would stay during our trip and then to the small airport here on the island. We flew to JFK and then to Washington Dulles, where Jeff picked us up at 11:30 PM. To say it was good to see him standing there would be an understatement! The following day was spent just having fun with the kids and getting some time to rest and relax.
Rush cuddling with Bop.Buddies forever. I love Walt’s hand on top of John’s.Waiting for the Metro.That’s a happy little Walter!Walt and Rush getting a sneak peek on those trains.The beautiful displays.Niece Sarah, Jason, and baby Annie.It’s fun to play in the rainbows at the Indian museum.
After catching up on playing with Walt and Rush on Wednesday, we decided to take a trip to Washington D.C. on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, Sarah had to work, but Jeff, John and I had great fun taking the boys on their first Metro ride into the city. We decided to visit the Botanical Gardens on the Mall because the annual train display was set up and the boys just love model trains. The display was absolutely gorgeous. Every year the theme changes and this year it commemorated the 100th anniversary of the beginning of National Parks in the U.S. Every building and setting was made of plant material and 45 parks were featured. The boys loved the trains, which included Thomas, his friend Percy, a train shaped like a ladybug, and many other beautiful trains of all sizes. We also had another wonderful treat; our niece, Sarah Koch, and her husband, Jason, along with their new baby, Annie, came to meet us at the Smithsonian. Annie is just three months old and this was our first time to meet her and give her some cuddles. We all had lunch together at the Indian museum, catching up and having a great time.
Later that night, Jeff and Sarah took us out to dinner for my birthday. When asked what I felt like eating there wasn’t much hesitation. I wanted a good steak! I’m not one to order beef at a restaurant as a rule, but take it from me, there are no good steaks in the Caribbean, either in stores or in restaurants, and sometimes you just want a nice piece of meat! We went to a beautiful old steak house in the center of Annapolis and we all just relished every bite of the best steak and the most delicious potatoes we have ever eaten.
Some serious baking and sneaking bites going on here!
We had another nice lunch out on Friday and, in the evening, we all took the boys to see the lovely and large lighting display on the bay. When we returned home, Walt, Rush and I worked on making some cookies. They both love cooking, especially the measuring and stirring parts! Scooping cookies onto a cookie sheet is especially entertaining. Suffice it to say that more cookie dough ended up in the kids than in the oven!
Little shepherd boy, Rush, with Sarah.The living nativity.
Finally Christmas Eve was upon us. Going to Jeff and Sarah’s little white, picturesque church, singing carols, and especially watching Walt and Rush as shepherds in the live nativity scene was the perfect way to welcome Christmas. It seems like just a few years ago that it was our children in those scenes. Next year they will have a new little boy to attend the service with them, as Sarah is due in April. We couldn’t be more excited.
I’m guessing Santa won’t mind sharing with this little cutie.
After church we had a delicious dinner made by Sarah before the little guys left their cookies for Santa and headed off to bed, hoping to catch a glimpse of those famous reindeer.
Trying out the new roller skates right over the roadblocks created by new toys.Walt got a camera so he was busy taking pictures while rollerskating. In fact, he took 389 pictures on Christmas day. I may have competition!This picture makes me laugh!
Well, Walt and Rush missed Santa’s arrival, but he did come, leaving lots of presents under the tree. The day was spent in the traditional fashion of kids playing with gifts, Sarah and me cooking, and getting ready for a turkey dinner with the family and Doris, their au pair, and her boyfriend. We were all stuffed and happy at the end of a perfect Christmas day.
Early Monday morning, Jeff drove us to the airport where we rented a car to drive to Jacksonville to see Kelly and family and Jason, Lisa, and Lisa’s daughter, Ashley, who we had not met before. The drive was a long one with countless delays, but we finally got there around 11:30 PM, so other than getting to see Kelly and Craig and a quick sleepy trip down the stairs by Michaela, we had to wait till morning for the full reunion.
Left to right, Jason, Lisa, Ashley, Michaela, Madison (in front), Kelly, Carter (also in front.Of course, Jason had to go fishing with the kids in the back yard.
Jennifer with MadisonWe loved seeing Rich and Kathy
Tuesday was full of fun when everyone got together again. The first activity of the visit was a traditional trip to the Jacksonville Zoo. Kelly had invited John’s brother, Rich, and his girlfriend, Kathy, along with our niece, Jennifer, for dinner. Rich and Kathy have a home on Amelia Island, which is near to Kelly and Craig’s house, and Jennifer was there for Christmas, visiting from Colorado. We hadn’t seen Jennifer for a few years so it was a real joy to see her again. Because Jennifer, Jason, and I all have birthdays within six days of each other, Jennifer’s being on Christmas and Jason’s being the 26th, Kelly had a cake for the three of us and we all got to celebrate together.
The glass at the rink is very scratched, but I couldn’t not document this day. This was Lisa’s first time on skates. And, as you can see, Jason has turned all Florida and wears only shorts.Madison enjoying the ride with Bop.Kelly, Carter and Craig. Before we left, Carter was skating without the walker.Ashley was a confident skater – but she sure didn’t feel good.Michaela does great on skates!
The next day, Wednesday, found everyone bundling up for a day of ice-skating at the rink in Jacksonville. I chose to be the official photographer and babysitter for any child who wanted off the ice (translation, I didn’t want to skate) but everyone else donned rented skates and started off. Unfortunately, Ashley, who is pregnant, didn’t feel well and ended up having to go to the hospital. She was fine after some fluids, but we were all sorry she felt so ill and we are happy all is well now. Jason, Lisa, and Ashley left to go back to New Port Richey, where they live, and the rest of us all just relaxed after a good day together.
Madison looks so little by the horses, but she has no fear of them at all.Some of the pre-ride shenanigans!Michaela is so poised on a horse.Carter checking out this horse.These are some friendly horses! Unfortunately, John did get stepped on by one of them!This guy just kept on resting his head on my shoulder.Maddie always manages to get a little ride in.Jazz seemed to really try to apologize to Michaela after he threw her. No hard feelings were kept.
Thursday turned out to be a very busy day! Kelly had arranged Michaela’s riding lesson for 10 AM so John and I could go watch. We drove to the stable where she rides and John and I were surprised to see all the horses just loose around us. What fun it was to have those beautiful animals come up to us to be pet and to follow us around as if they were puppies. They were feeling pretty spunky that day and there was a lot of galloping around going on. However, soon Jazz, the horse Michaela was to ride for the day, was saddled up and she was on him, looking so grown up and accomplished. Jazz, however, was feeling a little feisty from all the running around and when Michaela turned him around and started to make him trot, he took off, throwing poor Michaela right off his back. It was her first fall from a horse, and she took it amazingly well. With only a couple of blisters on her hands from the reigns, she decided to stop for the day, but only a few days later she was right back in the saddle.
A good dad.
Driving home from her lesson, after making a stop at our mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs, the next mishap of the day occurred. On the highway, a car ahead of us hit a metal box, sending it flying into one of Kelly’s tires and making a four-inch slash in the side. Kelly handled it beautifully, carefully getting off the road and into a side street where John got to change the tire for his daughter while Kelly arranged an appointment to get a new tire and the kids and I played happily. The day ended well with the new tire installed and everyone enjoying being together for the last night before we left again for Antigua.
John and Kirby relaxing after our wonderful trip.
Our trip home was easy. We picked up Kirby, got back to the boat, and relaxed with our friends over pizza and drinks. We did both come back with bad colds that we are still trying to shake, but all is well and it was the most wonderful way to spend our Christmas time.
Back in Antigua, it was a ladies’ beach day.
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Debbie and Noi on the beach.
Now we wish all of you good health, peaceful days, and time with friends and family. Live every day to its fullest and treasure those you love. Happy New Year!